While cancer remains the second leading cause of death in the nation, the death rate from cancer in the US has dramatically fallen in the last two decades. According to a recent report released by the American Cancer Society (ACS), cancer death rate for both men and women fell by 25% from its peak in 1991 to 2014, the last year reliable data is available. This translates into 2.1 million averted deaths, showing that cancer research and prevention screening works.
“The continuing drops in the cancer death rate are a powerful sign of the potential we have to reduce cancer’s deadly toll,” said Otis W. Brawley, MD, FACP, chief medical officer of the ACS. “Continuing that success will require more clinical and basic research to improve early detection and treatment, as well as creative new strategies to increase healthy behaviors nationwide. Finally, we need to consistently apply existing knowledge in cancer control across all segments of the population, particularly to disadvantaged groups.”
The ACS projects that in 2017 a total of 1,688,780 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed and 600,902 people will die from cancer. That’s a huge death toll, however, it’s fortunate to learn new cancer diagnoses decreased by about 2% per year over the last decade. Over the same period, the cancer death rate has fallen by 1.5% annually.
Here are some of the most important findings and statistics from ACS’ paper, Cancer Statistics, 2017:
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- Lung cancer is still the main cause of death from cancer being responsible for 1 out of every 4 such fatalities. Lung, colorectal, prostate, and breast cancers account for 46% of the total cancer deaths among men and women.
- For men, 1 in 5 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed as prostate cancer. Among women, the 3 most common cancers in 2017 will be breast, lung, and colorectal, collectively summing about half of all new cases.
- The decline in new cancer cases can be attributed to a drop in prostate cancer diagnoses in men. The PSA blood test has been dropped because it resulted in too many false positives and as a result fewer prostate cancer cases have been reported. There’s also a decline in new lung cancer since there are fewer smokers in the US than in previous years. Colorectal cancer incidence rates declined by about 3% per year in both men and women from 2004 through 2013.
- The U.S. ranks 10th in the world for cancers in men and 8th for cancer in women, the report shows.
- New cancer diagnosing and death rates vary among racial and ethnic groups. The highest new cancer cases rate is highest among African Americans and lowest among Asian Americans. As of 2014, the cancer death rate is 15% higher in blacks than whites, but racial disparity used to be much higher. The excess risk of cancer death in black men as compared to white men has dropped from 47% in 1990 to 21% in 2014. The racial disparity has also declined in black women, from a peak of 20% in 1998 to 13% in 2014.
- After accidents, cancer is the second leading cause of death among children ages 1 to 14 years in the US. Leukemia accounts for almost a third (29%) of all childhood cancers, followed by brain and other nervous system tumors (26%). Although cancer incidence rates have steadily increased by 0.6% per year from 1975 through 2013, the cancer death rate has declined. The 5-year relative survival rate for all cancer sites combined improved from 58% for children diagnosed during 1975 to 1977 to 83% for those diagnosed during 2006 to 2012.
- Approximately 208,000 new cases of rare cancer are expected to be diagnosed in 2017, not including the 8,850 estimated new cases of testicular cancer. Rare cancers are defined as those with fewer than 6 cases per 100,000 people per year. Rare cancers include those affecting the small intestine, anus, gallbladder, larynx, nasopharynx, nose and nasal cavity, vulva, vagina, penis, bone (including osteosarcoma), soft tissue, and eye, as well as testicular cancer, breast cancer in men, mesothelioma, and Kaposi sarcoma.[/panel]